Shocking figures on sexual assault in the military
Over the past month we have seen several reports revealing alarming numbers of sexual assault in the Armed Forces. According to figures, one in ten teenage girls in the military claim to have been a victim of sexual assault.
This figure emerged after the Ministry of Defence admitted that 47 recruits under the age of 18 (37 of which were female), made complaints of being attacked last year. Minister for Defence People, Leo Docherty, also revealed that 22 of the alleged attacks happened at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, where recruits aged 16 and 17 go through their basic training. It is both uncomfortable and worrying to read these allegations and it leads you to question how this alleged behaviour has been allowed on this scale without something being done.
Many women take a lot of pride in joining the military and being able to serve their country. A career in the military offers good job security and a sense of camaraderie that you might not get in other areas of work. However, we continue to see servicewomen’s careers being cut short as a result of treatment they suffer while serving. Those who are subjected to sexual harassment and assault can experience long lasting impacts on their mental health as a result, with many being diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD. In many cases, this will result in a medical discharge from the military and may also impact on their ability to work in a civilian career.
As we have seen from recent news headlines, bullying, harassment and sexual assault towards women remains an issue within the forces, although steps are being taken to address this. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence issued a new policy emphasising its zero tolerance approach to sex offenders in the military. This policy applies to the Royal Navy, RAF and Army. Significant changes include the introduction of administrative discharge from the military for those found guilty of sexual offences. The policy also states that sexual relations between instructors and trainees are unacceptable and will result in the instructor’s dismissal. This is a welcome step in the right direction and will hopefully result in fewer cases of harassment and assault. It is also hoped that allegations of sexual harassment and assault will be taken more seriously going forward. We have seen in the past that servicewomen who raise such allegations will often be poorly treated by their chain of command and face stigma from their peers. The Defence Committee published a report about experiences of servicewomen last year. This report can be read here.
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we act for servicemen and women who have been subjected to harassment and assault while serving and have seen the devastating impact this can have on their lives. We help service personnel to claim compensation, which allows them to take time to focus on treatment and recovery and provides financial stability following a loss of career.
If you have suffered sexual assault and/or harassment and are considering pursuing a compensation claim, Bolt Burdon Kemp can help. Please contact our team here for free and confidential advice.